Success with Chiropractic for Tennis Elbow

Success with Chiropractic for Tennis Elbow

             Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is treated effectively with chiropractic treatment. Contrary to its name, tennis elbow is not only developed from playing tennis, but can also develop from many other issues as well as from underlying conditions. In most people, tennis elbow will go away on its own with correct at-home care and exercises. However, it is not a quick process, and without chiropractic care or otherwise, the healing time for tennis elbow is around 12 weeks. Chiropractic care is not only beneficial, but essential in the speedy recovery from tennis elbow.


Tennis Elbow Fundamentals

Tennis elbow is defined as a type of tendonitis, caused by inflammation or deterioration of a tendon. Repetitive stress on the forearm muscles causes both inflammation and the tendons of the elbow to become injured and aggravated. Surprisingly, a good portion of  patients who have tennis elbow actually aren’t tennis players. Those who suffer from chronic tennis elbow are most often seen in those aged 35-55 years old, and with the tendon deterioration that tennis elbow causes, it can also cause the area to become weak and more at risk of future injury.

Potential Symptoms of Tennis Elbow:

  • Pain when lifting something
  • Pain when making a fist and/or gripping an object
  • Pain when opening a door
  • Pain when typing on a computer
  • Pain when raising your hand or straightening the wrist.

The pain caused by tennis elbow may radiate along the outside of the forearm and into the wrist, but like with most conditions, the symptoms and causes will vary.

Typical Causes of Tennis Elbow:

  • Sports – a common injury amongst young athletes since many of these sports require repetitive movements which can cause an overuse injury.
  • Computers – when working at a computer all day long, and performing the same movements of both using a mouse and typing, it can cause tension in the arm which supports the elbow joint.
  • Other Job-Related Tasks – jobs such as carpenters, painters, plumbers, or other jobs of the like, are more susceptible to injury and using their arms repetitively which puts pressure on the elbow joint.
  • Home Improvement – doing manual labor type of work is also applicable in your own home, and can also cause the same issues. Painting, and using certain tools can cause an overuse injury to the elbow through repetitive arm movements.
While the symptoms and causes are, on a base level the same, they can also vary to a degree by way of their severity or scope. When it comes to chiropractic treatment, it is beneficial to take a multi-faceted approach to healing tennis elbow, especially when many patients new to chiropractic treatments are unaware that chiropractic providers treat something other than the spine.


Chiropractic for Tennis Elbow 

            A large portion of chiropractic treatment is not only the manipulations done in-office, but also at-home treatment guidance to relieve the elbow pain and enhance the results of the chiropractic treatment.

At-home protocol for patients being treated for tennis elbow should follow R.I.C.E:

  • Rest – complete rest from the activity causing the tennis elbow until there is full healing within the elbow. If full rest is not completely possible, a strap or brace should be worn depending on the severity of the elbow pain.
  • Ice – cryomassage technique would work great for this part of RICE. However, if this is not an option for the patient, have them use an ice pack for about 25 minutes every 3 hours.
  • Compression – a compression sleeve can be used to move out any inflammatory fluids produced from the elbow pain, and prevent more from accumulating.
  • Elevation – while resting, the patient should keep the elbow above the heart, and like with the compression sleeve, this is to reduce inflammation fluids and the accumulation of it.
There are also various options that chiropractic providers can use to treat tennis elbow depending on the information accumulated in the initial examination. In the case of tennis elbow specifically, if we are dealing with an athlete, it is also crucial that we evaluate not only their symptoms, but also their form within their sport. Many times, tennis elbow can develop in athletes due to poor or declining technique, and offering this information to the athlete to work with their coach is essential as well. Even in patients who are not athletes, ergonomics of their job or task should also be discussed for healing, and further issues down the road.

Chiropractic Treatment Options for Tennis Elbow:

  • Chiropractic Adjustments – active release techniques that target soft tissue and muscles to restore functionality and range of motion effectively decreasing the risk of injury. The Graston Technique is also helpful for tennis elbow to bring blood flow back to the area allowing cells to rebuild and heal.
  • Cold laser therapy/low level laser therapy – reduce pain and inflammation caused by tennis elbow.
  • Sports taping – improves mobility and support the swollen elbow
  • Ultrasound – utilizing sound waves to target the inflamed tissue, and provide heat to soft tissues.
  • Stretches and exercises – create correct function and balance within the forearm and elbow, and works to strengthen these muscles over time. A few example exercises/stretches are:
    • Wrist Flex – can be done standing or sitting beginning with the arms down at their side. Have the patient lift the affected arm straight out in front with the palm facing down, and with the other hand slowly and gently apply pressure to the wrist on the affected arm. Advise them that this may hurt, but to press as far down as they can so that the palm faces them holding for about 20 seconds. Then, have them bend the wrist back the other way pulling the fingers toward them, repeat this cycle 3 times.
    • Elbow Bend – have the patient stand and place the arms down at their side. Next, they need to slowly bend the arm upward like a bicep curl with the palm facing out. Bend the arm up until it touches the shoulder, and hold for about 20 seconds. Repeat the motion 10 times.
    • Wrist Turn – like the others, have them begin with their arms at their sides. Next, form an L shape with the affected arm, palm facing up. Have the patient then slowly turn their wrist up and down holding in each position for 5 seconds. Repeat this action in 3 sets of 10.
There are a wide range of stretches and exercises that can be done that are within the chiropractor toolbox to help treat tennis elbow. By employing all of these techniques, chiropractic treatment is not only helpful, but also very well-rounded in achieving full healing.


Chiropractic & Tennis Elbow

            Overall, our goals in using chiropractic to treat tennis elbow are to solve any misaligned joint issues, explore possible misaligned spine problems, restore grip strength, and increase wrist and arm mobility. We also want to be sure and give at-home instruction so that they can continue healing both in and out of the office. A case study done in 2014, Chiropractic Treatment of Lateral Epicondylitis, showcased a case study in which a man with tennis elbow received 5 sessions of active release technique. By the end of the case study, it was concluded that the man responded favorably to active release technique chiropractic treatment having decreased his pain and increased function. By employing this multi-faceted treatment approach utilizing chiropractic techniques, it is evident that chiropractic treatment is not only helpful, but a more well-rounded treatment option for those who suffer from tennis elbow.